The Atlantean embassy is under siege! Aquaman and Black Manta are locked in battle! Who will survive? And most importantly, how well does Aquaman #2 stand up?
Previously in Aquaman: Years ago, Aquaman killed Black Manta’s father, and ever since Manta has been plotting his revenge. Now, with the new Atlantean embassy open, Manta’s attack may destabilize the truce between the surface and water dwellers.
I ATTACK YOU, THEN YOU ATTACK ME, THEN I ATTACK YOU, AGAIN!
In part two of “The Drowning” arc, chaos is the name of the game. While the embassy explodes and humans run willy nilly trying to escape the carnage, Black Manta and Aquaman are locked in a heated battle to the death. Instead of page after page of well choreographed fighting, each of the characters spends a great deal of time explaining their point of view, while exchanging blows and pointing really sharp objects at one another. Black Manta believes if he kills Aquaman he will be hailed as a hero among humans. Aquaman on the other hand, explains that their fighting must end in order for the healing to begin.
If this were a movie, Errol Flynn and Claude Rains would be exchanging blows and trading quips as the upper hand passes back and forth between hero and villain. In comic book form, this fight seems odd at best. Multiple times Aquaman and Black Manta have the upper hand only to have the advantage taken away in ways that don’t play well on the page. Unfortunately, this makes the entire sequence last far longer than it needs to, which makes Aquaman’s plea for logic and reasoning seem oddly out of place and dead on arrival when he finally convinces Manta to stand down.
That said, Aquaman’s restraint really shows that he wants to be a hero that doesn’t just smash and pound the villain into submission – he wants to find a diplomatic solution to the problem. I hope Mr. Abnett continues to focus on this aspect of Arthur’s personality as the series goes forward. Personally, I think it will make the character stronger, as he doesn’t become just a bruiser, but rather saves it as a last resort.
WHAT IS HE WEARING?
When it comes to character design, there are some really interesting designs artist Scot Eaton uses on these characters. The leader of the guard, for example, has a huge conch shell as a shoulder guard in his uniform which ties into the ocean motif. Black Manta’s costume is always sleek and menacing, and the black and red stylings of the woman who breaks Manta out of captivity looks impressive. However, I don’t know what the heck is going on with Aquaman’s shirt. Is it supposed to be fish scales, or some kind of weird growth? There are multiple times in the issue that the shirt looks like a crusty crab or starfish has been turned inside out and worn as a garment. For this reviewer, it is very off putting, and I would rather the design switch back to the classic fish scale look.
Coloring for this issue works for me, and I’m glad Gabe Eltaeb didn’t go overboard with computer effects like glows and flares. Black Manta’s scars do look a little odd at times. In the close up shots, the scars are a deep purple, which is fine, but in wider shots, the scars look almost nonexistent as there is no color to set the face apart in the crowd. The three slashes across his face are what help identify the character when his mask is off, and sadly, Manta looks like a regular person as he is being escorted away.
BOTTOM LINE: IT’S A GOOD FIRST ARC
Aquaman #2 is a good conclusion to the battle between Aquaman and Black Manta. The issue redefines Aquaman and his role in the new DC universe, while at the same time, it continues to build the conflict between the two worlds, which I think will be an interesting story that will evolve over time. Personally, I grew a little weary of the non-stop fighting, mainly because of the lackluster staging, but I know many want their comics filled with punching and stabbing, and in this chapter, I can see how it works. As a three act arc (Aquaman Rebirth #1, Aquaman #1, and Aquaman #2), the story was satisfying and worth reading.